Raising The Bar: Philip Bischoff, the bearded Bar Manager at the BKK Social Club, talks about teamwork, lasting impressions, and maintaining a competitive edge.
Located within the swanky Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok at Chao Phraya River, the BKK Social Club specialises in bespoke cocktails, craft spirits, and fine cigars, all in a super stylish setting that evokes the legendary glamour and lifestyle of Buenos Aires. Last month, when the World’s 50 Best Bars for 2022 were revealed, the bar claimed the No.14 spot, making it the highest-ranking entry from Thailand. To crack the Top 20 of such a prestigious, international list is no small feat, and for Bar Manager Philip Bischoff and his team it meant “bringing their A Game” each and every day (and riding out the rollercoaster year that was 2021, when the bar spent more days closed than open).
When Prestige last visited with Philip – shortly after the BKK Social Club officially opened its doors – he was being kept doubly busy with his new role as father of a nine-month-old baby daughter. Needless to say, a lot has changed since then, including the fact that his baby girl is fast approaching her third birthday.
What’s changed at BKK Social Club over the past two years, and what does the future hold?
Well, the main thing that’s changed is that the hotel is finally fully open again. We had the chance to keep as many staff as possible, and we’re happy that the team stayed engaged and stayed strong together, supported by the hotel. I also think the bar has finally found is position in the market. Clients really do appreciate what they find here. Every night after 9 o’clock it’s buzzing. And in December, just in time for high season, we’re going to give the menu its first facelift. We’ve decided to change roughly 50 percent of the signature drinks, and one or two classics, while still remaining within the storytelling and concept of the menu.
How does it feel to be one of the world’s top 20 bars?
Very unexpected. Receiving that mail, to be part of it, was an amazing feeling, and great for the team too. We couldn’t be happier! In 2021, when we were recognised on the World’s Best Bars extended list [at No.90], that was already more than we expected. And when Bangkok hosted the Asia’s 50 Best Bars awards last April, that was great opportunity for friends, colleagues, peers, and industry people to visit, and for us to showcase what BKK Social Club is all about. I think that had a massive impact on why we had the chance to be acknowledged in this year’s World’s 50 Best Bars list.
What do you want people’s lasting impression of BKK Social Club to be?
Great question. I hope they take away a connection with the people working here. One of the most common comments, especially when I’m not around, that I receive from guests is ‘the team has been so knowledgeable, and welcoming, and engaging’. It’s great that people say the drinks are nice too, but I think you go back to places because of the people. Of course, when you walk through the door here you also see an amazingly designed back shelf and an amazingly designed room. And in the evening, when the lighting is right, and the music is good, and the energy is there, it’s about the overall atmosphere.
You and Lorenzo Antinori [in Hong Kong] are both Beverage Ambassadors for Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts Asia Pacific. What does that role entail?
The intention of that role is to connect with teams in other hotels to see how we can enhance our beverage offerings. Not every Four Seasons hotel or resort has a signature bar, like Argo [Hong Kong], or Charles H [Seoul], or Virtù [Tokyo]… so we’re building that. It’s meant to be an ‘on the ground’ role, but so far, because of the pandemic, we’ve only had the chance to do some things remotely.
What does the term ‘competitive edge’ mean to you?
First, it’s about getting things right and creating the best possible guest experience. And once you set your own standards, you have to maintain them. In our business the biggest trick is to be consistent. With all this recognition, people come with very high expectations now, and that alone keeps us competitive.